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Already David Chang’s Korean-Chinese restaurant Majordomo is drawing crowds to a space at 1725 Naud St. Oriel, a wine bar from the team behind the Los Feliz wine bar Covell, is open near the Chinatown Metro rail station, and the cocktail bar Apotheke is at 1746 N. Spring St.

Chinatown has long been one of the quieter parts of Downtown. Although Far East Plaza has emerged as a food hub, and the $100 million Blossom Plaza housing project opened in 2016, the neighborhood has not seen the buzz of development that has hit areas such as South Park and the Historic Core.

Another factor is local zoning standards. The Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, approved in 2013 by the City Council, is intended to boost housing and business development in a 660-acre area encompassing the northern tip of Chinatown and parts of Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park.


It aims to allow more active uses for plots formerly occupied by industrial and heavy manufacturing businesses.

According to Dickson, the change both allowed Angeleno Wine Company to set up in an area previously zoned for industrial use, and to have a park and restaurants as neighbors, rather than factories. Eli Kagan, a partner in Baby’s All Right, called the plan “pretty forward thinking,” and said it is attractive for businesses.

One of those new businesses is Apotheke, a cocktail bar that started in New York City in 2008. When owner Christopher Tierney decided to expand to Los Angeles, he said he was looking for a spot that would function as a destination, similar to the cocktail bar’s New York location.

There’s also the potential of a growing residential base. Developer Atlas Capital is working on College Station, a six-building, 770-unit project that would rise near the southern edge of the park. On a narrow strip of land on the western side of the park, Lincoln Property Company and SR Properties plan to build the Elysian Park Lofts, a 920-unit development.

The change in the area may be further along than most people think. Moore noted that once one big-name business comes to a neighborhood, others follow. In this case, he pointed to David Chang’s announcement in mid-2017 that he planned to launch Majordomo.

Others think such a transition isn’t likely to happen soon. This collection of new spaces is just that — a collection of spaces — and not yet the sign of a large boom, according to Chinatown Business Improvement District Executive Director George Yu.

“It’s going to be a long time before Chinatown is truly sustainable,” he said. “It’s not going to explode. We’re trying to maintain the balance of the new and the old. And it takes some time. I met the Highland Park Brewery team in 2014, that’s how long it’s been since they started looking. This is no flash in the pan, fly-by-night situation.”

The new businesses are aware of their neighbors, and see the strength in numbers. Tierney said that Apotheke and Majordomo draw a similar clientele, with diners often going to the bar before or after a meal. Although the owners aren’t coordinating a grand neighborhood plan, they talk to each other and are excited for change.

That means, in a year, visitors may be able to grab a meal, see a band and get a drink in a neighborhood that until recently was dead after dark. Perhaps that means the greater issue is how much things will escalate as even more businesses are drawn to the once-quiet neighborhood.